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John B.
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John Farmer's Column  

John wears two hats – columnist and lawyer. He writes a monthly column, Leading-Edge Law, for the Richmond Times-Dispatch on breaking legal issues in the e-commerce, intellectual property and high-tech fields. He’s been writing columns since 1998.
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Explaining the REDSKINS Decision

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

Some key things to know about the recent decision to cancel federal registrations for the trademark REDSKINS, which was made by Judge Gerald Bruce Lee of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria division. This is a federal trial court. • The decision does not force the Redskins to change Read the full article…


Redskins May Benefit from Flowering of First Amendment Rights in IP Realm

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

The First Amendment right to free speech is coming on strong in the world of intellectual property. It could save the REDSKINS federal trademark registrations from cancellation. Recall the federal Trademark Office found the REDSKINS trademarks disparage American Indians and ordered cancellation of the registrations. The Redskins appealed to a federal trial court in Northern Read the full article…


VCU Finally Files HAVOC Federal Mark Registration Applications

Monday, June 8th, 2015

VCU finally filed some federal mark registration applications for its HAVOC mark. On May 5, VCU filed two applications: Mark: HAVOC LIVES HERE For these services: Entertainment services, namely, providing college basketball events; entertainment services, namely, providing college basketball games and events rendered live and via a global computer network, via wireless and mobile devices, Read the full article…


For Businesses, .Sucks Sucks

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

Should your business buy the “.sucks” domain name version of its company or key product name to keep it away from gripers? If you do, expect to pay almost $2500 a year. The chairman of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa, has called this pricing “legalized extortion.” Even so, companies such as Goodyear, Read the full article…


Will the Trademark HAVOC still live at VCU?

Monday, April 27th, 2015

By now, you probably heard of the potential dispute between VCU and the University of Texas over the HAVOC trademark. How will it get resolved? My guess is Texas will agree to not use the trademarks HORNS HAVOC and HOUSE OF HAVOC. On April 20, I spoke to Pamela D. Lepley, who is vice president Read the full article…


Do Opportunists Actually Cash In When Applying to Register Suddenly Popular Phrases as Trademarks?

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

It’s as inevitable as the sunrise. Tragedy strikes and a popular phrase is born. Or a sports star explodes on the scene and earns a catchy nickname. Then a bunch of opportunists run to the federal Trademark Office to try to cash in by applying to register that name or phrase as a trademark. For Read the full article…


Avoid Committing Twibel When Tweeting and Retweeting

Monday, February 16th, 2015

When you tweet, do you commit twibel? And if you retweet someone else’s twibel, are you on the hook too? “Twibel” is Internet slang for committing libel on Twitter ˗ writing something factually false about some other person or organization that damages that person’s or organization’s reputation. Engaging in twibel can be costly. Singer and Read the full article…


First Amendment Protection for Offensive Trademarks Could Arise in 2015

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

2015 could be the year in which courts give greater First Amendment protection for the registration and use of offensive trademarks. The Redskins Trademark Case Last year, the federal Trademark Office decided the trademark registrations owned by the Redskins football team that contain the word “Redskins” should be revoked because, it determined, that name was Read the full article…


Should You Use Fingerprint Unlock on Your New Phone?

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

Should you activate the fingerprint unlock feature on you new iPhone 6? That might depend on how much you fear the government. Regardless of whether you do so, be aware of your rights regarding whether the police may search your cell phone. Let’s start with a few recent court decisions. In June, the Supreme Court Read the full article…


Is Software Patenting Dead?

Monday, December 1st, 2014

It appears computer software patents died last June. If so, there will be rejoicing by the many businesses plagued by patent trolls. Last June, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that you cannot get a valid patent on conducting a business process on a generic computer. In other words, you cannot take a business Read the full article…